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Bates v. City of Bristol

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 26, 2018

NOELLE BATES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BRISTOL, KENNETH COCKAYNE, CINDY COCKAYNE LAMARRE, EDWARD KRAWIECKI, JR., AND DIANE FERGUSON, Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         I. Introduction

         Noelle Bates, a legal secretary employed by the City of Bristol, sued the City and city officials for violations of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). (see ECF No. 1-1). Bates claims that she was sexually harassed and retaliated against for complaining about such harassment. Defendants move to dismiss all 17 counts of Bates' complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed (1) to bring her action in a timely manner, (2) to exhaust administrative remedies, (3) to serve process properly on one defendant, and (4) to file her administrative complaint in a timely manner.

         For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Counts 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, and 17. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as to Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 14, and 16.

         II. Background

         The following recitation of the facts is taken from Bates' complaint, along with the exhibits attached to the parties' briefs.

         A. Factual Allegations

         Bates has been employed as a legal secretary in the office of the Bristol Corporation Counsel since 2009. (ECF No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 5-6). Defendant Kenneth Cockayne has been the Mayor of the City of Bristol, Connecticut (“City”), since November of 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 31). Defendant Edward Krawiecki, Jr. is the Corporation Counsel for the City. (Id. at ¶ 11). Defendant Diane Ferguson is the Personnel Director for the City. (Id. at ¶ 9). Defendant Cindy Cockayne Lamarre is an appointed official of the City and serves as a member of the Bristol Zoning Commission (Id. at ¶ 12). Bates claims that she was sexually harassed by Cockayne and subsequently retaliated against for complaining about such harassment. (see ECF No. 1-1). In her complaint, Bates describes several encounters with Cockayne, including one occurring in November of 2011 when Cockayne allegedly grabbed Bates and forced her into his lap while he watched a pornographic video in his office. (Id. at ¶ 24). A second occurred on October 24, 2013 when Cockayne allegedly put his hand up Bates' skirt at a golf event at the Chippanee Golf Club. (Id. at ¶ 27). Bates' complaint also includes several comments made by Cockayne over the course of her employment. In August of 2011, Cockayne allegedly invited Bates to accompany him to a park “just to talk.” (Id. at ¶ 19). In 2012 and 2013, Cockayne allegedly told Bates that he could freely sexually harass her because he was an elected official. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 32).

         On November 11, 2015, Bates notified her colleague of Cockayne's behavior at the golf event. (Id. at ¶ 42). The colleague then notified Ferguson and Krawiecki of Cockayne's behavior. Id. Bates claims that she was subsequently retaliated against for making this complaint against Cockayne. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-89). She alleges, for example, that she received threatening letters reminding her of her at-will employment status, that she was video-taped by Cockayne and Ferguson, that she was told on numerous occasions that Cockayne wanted to fire her, that her work and usage of her WestLaw and CLEAR accounts were monitored, and that a co-worker rifled through her desk. (Id. at ¶¶ 46, 53, 75, 81, and 89).

         After Cockayne and Ferguson allegedly video-taped Bates, Bates met repeatedly with members of the Bristol Police Department. As a result of these meetings, Bates made a formal written statement regarding Cockayne's videotaping. (Id. at ¶¶ 54-70). Despite several requests, Bates was not able to obtain a copy of the incident report. (Id. at ¶ 70).

         Bates' complaint also lists additional conduct by Cockayne, occurring from December 2015 through August 2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 53, 78, 83, and 87). For example, Cockayne allegedly told Bates that he was going to tell lies to Bates' husband, made defamatory comments about Bates, read a public statement at a City Council meeting regarding a consensual sexual relationship with Bates, and made defamatory and sexual comments about Bates to her co-worker. (Id.)

         In 2016, the City of Bristol retained a consultant, Attorney Michael Rose, to investigate Bates' claims of sexual harassment and retaliation by Cockayne. (Id. at ¶ 73). Bates overheard her co-workers discussing the investigation by Attorney Rose and learned that Cockayne was making defamatory statements about her. (Id. at ¶ 78).

         B. Procedural History

         On June 6, 2016, Bates filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) against the City. On August 22, 2016, Bates amended the complaint against the City, and on September 21, 2016, she filed four new complaints against the additional defendants in this case--Cockayne, Krawiecki, Ferguson, and Cockayne Lamarre. All five complaints claimed violations of the CFEPA and Title VII. (see ECF No. 25-1 - 25-5). On March 8, 2017, the CHRO issued releases of jurisdiction for all five complaints. (see ECF No. 25-6). Subsequently, Bates brought this action in Connecticut Superior Court, claiming violations of the CFEPA and Title VII. (see ECF No. 1-1). A State Marshal effected service on the Defendants by leaving the summons and complaint at City Hall on June 6, 2017, and Bates filed the complaint in court on June 30, 2017. (ECF No. 1-1 at 49). Defendants later removed the case to this Court (see ECF No. 1), and filed a Motion to Dismiss all 17 counts in Plaintiff's complaint.

         C. Legal Theories

         Counts 1 and 7 are for violations of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-60(a)(1) by the City and Cockayne, respectively. Counts 2 and 8 are for violations of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-60(a)(4) by the City and Cockayne, respectively. Counts 3 and 9 are for violations of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-60(a)(8) by the City and Cockayne, respectively. Counts 4 and 10 are for violations of Title VII by the City and Cockayne, respectively. Counts 5 and 11 are for intentional infliction of emotion distress by the City and Cockayne, respectively. Counts 6, 12, and 15 are for invasion of privacy by the City, Cockayne, and Ferguson, respectively. Counts 13, 14, 16, and 17 are for aiding and abetting violations of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-60(a)(5) by Cockayne, Ferguson, Krawiecki, and Cockayne Lamarre, respectively.

         III. Legal Standard

         A. Rule 12(b)(1): Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         A "case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Nike, Inc. v. Already, LLC, 663 F.3d 89, 94 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). The party "asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists." Luckett v. Bure, 290 F.3d 493, 497 (2d Cir. 2002). "In resolving a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), a district court . . . may refer to evidence outside the pleadings." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The court construes the complaint liberally and accepts all factual allegations as true. Ford v. D.C. 37 Union Local 1549, 579 F.3d 187, 188 (2d Cir. 2009).

         B. Rule 12(b)(5): Motion to Dismiss for Insufficient Service of Process

         A defendant may move to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process. When a defendant challenges service of process, "the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show the adequacy of service." Howard v. Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler, 977 F.Supp.2d 654, 658 (S.D.N.Y. 1997).

         C. Rule 12(b)(6): Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim ...


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